Octavio Paz
Quotations


“Art” is an invention of aesthetics, which in turn is an invention of philosophers. . . . What we call art is a game.

What distinguishes modern art from the art of other ages is criticism.

Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two.

Man, even man debased by the neocapitalism and pseudosocialism of our time, is a marvelous being because he sometimes speaks. Language is the mark, the sign, not of his fall but of his original innocence. Through the Word we may regain the lost kingdom and recover powers we possessed in the far-distant past.

Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.

Social criticism begins with grammar and the re-establishing of meanings.

Today we all speak, if not the same tongue, the same universal language. There is no one center, and time has lost its former coherence: East and West, yesterday and tomorrow exist as a confused jumble in each one of us. Different times and different spaces are combined in a here and now that is everywhere at once.

To read a poem is to hear it with our eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears.

If we are a metaphor of the universe, the human couple is the metaphor par excellence, the point of intersection of all forces and the seed of all forms. The couple is time recaptured, the return to the time before time.

Man does not speak because he thinks; he thinks because he speaks. Or rather, speaking is no different than thinking: to speak is to think.

Surrealism is not a school of poetry but a movement of liberation. . . . A way of rediscovering the language of innocence, a renewal of the primordial pact, poetry is the basic text, the foundation of the human order. Surrealism is revolutionary because it is a return to the beginning of all beginnings.

Technology is not an image of the world but a way of operating on reality. The nihilism of technology lies not only in the fact that it is the most perfect expression of the will to power . . . but also in the fact that it lacks meaning.

Modern man likes to pretend that his thinking is wide-awake. But this wide-awake thinking has led us into the mazes of a nightmare in which the torture chambers are endlessly repeated in the mirrors of reason.

The North American system only wants to consider the positive aspects of reality. Men and women are subjected from childhood to an inexorable process of adaptation; certain principles, contained in brief formulas are endlessly repeated by the Press, the radio, the churches, and the schools, and by those kindly, sinister beings, the North American mothers and wives. A person imprisoned by these schemes is like a plant in a flowerpot too small for it: he cannot grow or mature.

Writers, you know, are the beggars of Western society.



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Memorable Quotations: Latin American Writers

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